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Archive for the ‘Confessing Movement’ Category

Lately I have been researching the United Methodist Church (UMC) denomination – by far the most liberal/mainline denomination in the Wesleyan/Methodist tradition.

Why are mainline/liberal denominations (the UMC and many others) so theologically dangerous? Because they are having a huge destructive influence on the doctrines of more conservative evangelical denominations.

The actual beliefs of the UMC have diverged greatly from their actual doctrinal statement. I came across an excellent Confessing Movement report on doctrinal trends in the UMC (as of 1998). I have reposted this article below. Click here for the original posting of this article. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

I am very impressed with the format of the article, particularly:

#1) Evidence – quotes from UMC individuals showing a divergence from The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996
#2) Scripture verses quoted to show the proper, biblically sound doctrinal view
#3) Excerpts quoted from the The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996, showing a match between #2 and #3

I hope to follow a similar format, in critiquing the doctrinal trends in other straying denominations.

Note – the following article is 15 years old. I can’t even imagine how bad the doctrinal beliefs of the UMC are now. I am looking for similar articles on developments since 1998.

unofficial cm page

Article

Printer Version Available

Report on the Doctrinal Integrity Of the United Methodist Church

By Ad Hoc Committee of Laity Of Marietta First United Methodist Church 1998


Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Evidence on the Doctrinal Integrity of the United Methodist Church

A. Person and Work of Jesus Christ

B. Authority of Scripture

C. Worship of other gods

III. Response to the Doctrinal Crisis

A. By the Marietta First United Methodist Church

B. By the United Methodist-related Renewal Groups

C. By the United Methodist Church

Footnotes

Attachments (available soon)

  • Appendix A – Paragraph 62, Section Four Doctrinal Standards and General Rules, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996
  • Exhibit A – Houston Declaration Exhibit B Memphis Declaration Exhibit C Resolution concerning 1993 Re-Imagining Conference Exhibit D “Invitation to the Church” sent by The Confessing Movement within The United Methodist Church
  • Exhibit E – Petition to North Georgia Annual Conference, “A Call to Reaffirm the Centrality of Christ”
  • Exhibit F – Petition to North Georgia Annual Conference, “Regarding Doctrinal Integrity”
  • Exhibit G – A Resolution of Affirmation containing the text of “Confessional Statement of the Confessing Movement within The United Methodist Church”
  • Exhibit H – “A Call to Reaffirm the Centrality of Christ” as amended by the 1995 North Georgia Annual Conference”
  • Exhibit I – “In Defense of Responsible Giving”, Report of Good News Special Task Force, March 25, 1997
  • Exhibit J Good News, September/October 1995, page 40-41 Exhibit K Letter from James V. Heidinger, II to Bishop William Boyd Grove and Rev. Bruce W. Robbins dated September 1, 1995
  • Exhibit L – “An Open Letter to the Board of Directors of Good News” signed By Bishop William Lloyd Grove, President and Rev. Dr. Bruce W. Robbins, General Secretary.

I. Introduction

Over the past two hundred years, the contributions of the United Methodist Church to the United States and the world cannot be overestimated. During the 20th century, the United Methodist Church has been a vital force in meeting the needs of the oppressed, the poor, and the sick around the world. Significant contributions to Christian spiritual growth within the denomination have occurred through programs such as Disciple Bible Study and Walk to Emmaus. Local United Methodist churches have been vital places for equipping the body, fellowship, and care and comfort. These kinds of positive contributions are not in dispute.

The issue before us is rather the doctrinal integrity of the United Methodist Church: the faithfulness of its leadership to adhere to our Doctrinal Standards and to champion the cause of Jesus Christ as the Son, Savior, and Lord. In a relativistic and secular society, the responsibility of the Church is to uphold the basic, foundational tenets of the Christian faith. Therefore, we must determine if the United Methodist Denomination has fulfilled this duty and responsibility.

A very important point to be made in understanding this crisis is that as a denomination we have strong Christian doctrinal standards.(1) These have changed very little since John Wesley wrote them in 1784 and none at all since 1808 when a restrictive rule went into effect preventing any changes to these doctrinal standards. If we are faithfully following those doctrinal standards, there will be no question but that we are contending “for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.” Jude 1:3 (NIV)

The report that follows gives evidence of individual factual incidents. The crisis in the UMC is serious and long-standing but for the most part the report focuses on the last ten to twenty years.(2) As the report is read, it should be kept in mind that these individual actions are simply indicative of much larger problems. To assist in putting these individual incidents in perspective, we will identify several overall trends or patterns in the United Methodist Church.

First, United Methodist seminaries are no longer strictly adhering to the basic doctrines of the Christian faith and are tolerating if not promoting some non-Christian theologies.(3) Radical feminist theology is one of the more visible of those. The basic tenets of radical feminist theology include rejection of the Bible as an authoritative document because of its “patriarchialism”, identification of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ as “divine child abuse” that has no relevance for modern women, and promotion of worship of pagan female deities.(4) The report may seem to include a disproportionate number of references to women, but it is because of the pervasive influence that radical feminist theology has had on United Methodism.

The hold that feminist theology has on UM seminaries cannot be underestimated. For example, one of the foremost proponents of feminist theology, Rosemary Radford Ruether, is a tenured professor at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and Aida Isasi-Diaz, another well-known feminist/liberationist theologian, is on the staff at Drew University Seminary. The Re-Imagining Conference of 1993 (which was characterized by worship of the goddess Sophia and denial of the person and work of Jesus Christ) was not an isolated event. It has been repeated three more times since then and the keynote speakers are always Protestant and Catholic seminary professors or clergy.

Second, from the very highest levels of leadership on down, many UM bishops, clergy and staff, most of whom have graduated from UM seminaries, have exhibited a reluctance to adhere to the basic doctrines of the Christian faith.(5) The emphasis on a diverse, inclusive social gospel has eclipsed the need to preach “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” Intellectualism has snuffed out a simple faith in the Bible as the primary means through which the Creator has sought to reveal Himself to man. This lack of adherence to the essential doctrines of the Christian faith is evident in many of the incidents included in the report.

Third, the staffs of the general boards and agencies have become so isolated from the laity that they act with almost no regard for the beliefs or wishes of the majority of church members. The examples of liberal political activism in this report are typical of the pattern of behavior exhibited by these staff members.

Finally, all efforts at renewal by organized clergy and laity have failed to elicit significant improvement in these problems. The failure to discipline clergy who have been guilty of violating the doctrinal standards of the church is strong evidence of the disdain of the church leadership for the concerns being expressed by the church membership.


II. Evidence on the Doctrinal Integrity of the United Methodist Church

A. Person and Work of Jesus Christ

Evidence

1) Questions of Faith II, video series, #3,”Who is Jesus?”(6)— Statement of Walter Wink, Theologian (United Methodist): “I don’t think of Jesus as perfect…I think of Jesus as…whole. If you’re perfect, you have to be flawless….A person is whole who has incorporated all their own shadow and darkness and sin and evil and lust and anger and violence and has raised it to consciousness and offered it to God as part of their fullness in the human being and it’s been transformed. I think of Jesus as whole in that sense.”

Scripture

2 Cor 5:21 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV)

1 Pet 2:22 22 “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” (NIV)

I Jn 3:5 5 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. (NIV)

UM Discipline

“The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin; so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided; whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.”(7)


Evidence

2) Statement of Bishop C. Joseph Sprague, Northern Illinois Conference asserting that Jesus was not born divine but achieved that divinity during His life on earth: “Essentially, when it comes to Jesus, I believe that Jesus was fully human (how else could he be humankind’s Savior?), who in his radical and complete trust in and commitment to the God he called ‘Abba’, experienced such at-one-momentness with God that he revealed in and through himself the very heart, the essential nature of God. Thus, he was fully God, fully human — not by some trans-human altering of his genetic code, but by relationship with God, Neighbor and Self.”(8)

Scripture

John 1:1,14

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Matt 1:20-23

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.

21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 A11 this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:

23 ”The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”– which means “God with us.” (NIV)

UM Discipline

“The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin; so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided; whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.”(9)


Evidence

3) Rita Nakashima Brock, a speaker at Re-Imagining, is the author of Journeys by Heart: A Christology of Erotic Power, which is recommended by the Women’s Division.(10a) Until recently, Ms. Brock was a professor at UM-related Hamline University. She was the keynote speaker at “Celebration,” an ecumenical gathering for college students which was supported financially by the UM Board on Higher Education.(10b)

In her book, Ms. Brock writes: “For while Christ has continually been upheld as the heart of the promise of Christianity, Christ is a major problem in feminist theology. That problem has been born of an unholy trinity, father-son-holy ghost…”(11) “I will be developing a christology not centered in Jesus…”(12)

Scripture

John 3:16 16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (NIV)

John 3:18 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. (NIV)

I Jn 4:9 9 this is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (NIV)

UM Discipline

“The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin; so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided; whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.”(13)


Evidence

4) Ada Isasi-Diaz is a professor at Drew University, a UM seminary. She is a speaker on Questions of Faith, a speaker at Re-Imagining events, and a featured writer and speaker for the Women’s Division of the UMC.

In the summer of 1991, the Women’s Division had a National Seminar for United Methodist Women. Ms. Isasi-Diaz was one of the speakers. Her Bible study on the story of the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28) was published in the January, 1992 issue of Response, the magazine for United Methodist Women. In it she denied the sinless perfection of Jesus and his divine omniscience: “The ‘uppity’ woman ministers to Jesus, enabling him to see the situation in a different way, to question his prejudice. Her need and faith cause Jesus to realize his mission to people outside Israel.” [Emphasis added](14)

Scripture

Heb 4:15

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet was without sin. (NIV)

2 Cor 5:21

21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV)

Matt 11:27 27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (NIV)

Col 2:3 3 [Christ] in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (NIV)

UM Discipline

“The Son, who is the Word of the Father, the very and eternal God, of one substance with the Father, took man’s nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin; so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one person, never to be divided; whereof is one Christ, very God and very Man, who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.’(15)


Evidence

5) On November 4-7, 1993, an ecumenical conference called “Re-Imagining A Global Theological Conference by Women” was held in conjunction with the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women. [See “Worship of other gods,” #3 for more complete information on Re-Imagining.]

The conference included, among other things, repeated denials of the deity of Jesus Christ and of the necessity of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins. Delores Williams, one of the presenters, stated, “I don’t think we need a theory of atonement at all…. I don’t think we need folks hanging on crosses and blood dripping and weird stuff.(16)

Scripture

Gal 4:4-5 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. (NIV)

Col 1:19-20 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (NIV)

Heb 2:17 17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people . (NIV)

UM Discipline

“The offering of Christ, once made, is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifice of masses, in the which it is commonly said that the priest doth offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, is a blasphemous fable and dangerous deceit.”(17)


Evidence

6) Rosemary Radford Ruether is a tenured professor at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, a UM seminary. Her books include Women-Church that was recommended as a worship guide by the Women’s Division and Gaia & God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing.(18a)

She also wrote Disputed Questions On Being A Christian which she says is an account of her “intellectual and personal journey of faith and action”.(18b) In it she states: “Too often Christians have treated the sufferings of Christ as some kind of cosmic legal transaction with God to pay for the sins of humanity, as though anyone’s sufferings and death could actually ‘pay for’ others’ sins! Christ’s cross is used to inculcate a sense of masochistic guilt, unworthiness, and passivity in Christians.”(19)

Scripture

Gal 4:4-5 4 But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, 5 to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. (NIV)

Eph 1:7 7 In him [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.

Cot 1:19-20 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (NIV)

UM Discipline

“The offering of Christ, once made, is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifice of masses, in the which it is commonly said that the priest doth offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, is a blasphemous fable and dangerous deceit.”(20)


B. Authority of Scripture

Evidence

1) The Jesus Seminar is a group of New Testament theologians who in 1985 launched an effort to decide which words credited to Jesus in the gospels were actually spoken by him. “The scholars were unable to find a single saying in the Gospel of John that they could trace with certainty back to the historical Jesus.”(21)

“A few years ago, the group questioned Christ’s celibacy and one participant concluded that Jesus was ‘a party animal, somewhat shiftless, and disrespectful of the fifth commandment: Honor your father and mother.”(22)

This group included nine UM clergy: James Goss, C.M. Kempton Hewitt, Chan Hie Kim, Lane C. McGaughy, Vernon K. Robbins, Wesley Hiram Wachob, W. Barnes Tatum, Hal Taussig, and Walter Wink.(23) None have ever been disciplined.

Scripture

John 12:48-49

48 There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.

49 For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.(NIV)

1 Tim 6:3-4a

3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching,

4 he is conceited and understands nothing. (NIV)

John 6:63b

63 The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. (NIV)

UM Discipline

‘The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament of whose authority was never any doubt in the church.”(24)


Evidence

2) On February 19, 1998, Duke Divinity School, a UM seminary, sponsored a symposium called “Jesus in Context: Who is He?” It “showcases the findings of the Jesus Seminar alongside more traditional works to make it all more accessible to lay people.”(25) Eight New Testament scholars attended the conference, but only one espoused a traditional Christian position. Many of the others were part of the Jesus Seminar.

“E. P. Sanders of Duke said that Jesus never claimed to save the world in a sacrificial death, which would be ‘too perfect to be Jesus’ original idea.’. . . Paula Fredriksen, who teaches at Boston University School of Theology, another United Methodist seminary, said that Jesus never walked on water and never predicted His own death and resurrection. Fredriksen is an Orthodox Jew.”(26)

Scripture

Matt 16:21

21 From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. (NIV)

John 2:19-22

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

20 The Jews replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?”

21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.

22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken. (NIV)

Other similar scriptures: Mark 9:31 and Mark 10:33-34.

UM Discipline

“The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament of whose authority was never any doubt in the church.”(27)


Evidence

3) The Women’s Division of the UMC is the largest provider of Christian education materials for the women of UMC. Therefore, the study books, program books and reading list recommended by the Women’s Division are of the utmost importance. Several authors whose books are recommended by the Women’s Division are included in this report.

Letty M. Russell is an author who has written an annual spiritual growth study and is represented on many of the annual reading lists. She also was a speaker at Scarritt-Bennett Center, which belongs to the Women’s Division, on November 13, 1992. Her topic was “The Future of the Bible as Teacher”.

Ms. Russell has stated: “the word of God is not identical with the biblical texts” and “the text only has authority as I agree with it and interpret it to my experienced.(28)

Chung Hyun Kyung, who was a speaker at the Re-Imagining Conference, is also represented on the Reading Program for United Methodist Women. Her theology on the Bible is reflected in her writing: “Asian women theologians use the Bible as a reference and an insight from which they draw wisdom for their lives, and not as an absolute unchangeable truth from God.”(29)

Scripture

Ps 19:7-8

7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple.

8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. (NIV)

2 Tim 3:16-17

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (NIV)

1 Pet 1:25

25 “but the word of the Lord stands forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you. (NIV)

2 Pet 1:21

21 For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. (NIV)

UM Discipline

“The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament of whose authority was never any doubt in the church.”(30)


Evidence

4) Bishop Judith Craig (Ohio West) stated that the liberal wing of the UM church believes that God is continuing to reveal new truth in addition to the Bible. She was attempting to explain the main issue that divides the liberal wing (of which she considers herself a member) from the conservative wing of United Methodism. She said there are two “‘divergent world views, ways of coming at reality’ related to God’s revelation to humanity. The first [liberal], she said, believes that the ‘Holy Spirit’s activity is such that we continue to receive new revelation of God’ while the other [conservative] ‘believes the Holy Spirit is active in helping us comprehend what has already been revealed.

“People who support the first view [liberal] believe ‘God is still unfolding truths that have not yet been disclosed and live comfortably with a wide variety of convictions…'”(31)

Scripture

Deut 4:2

2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the LORD your God that I give you. (NIV)

2 Tim 4:3-4

3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.

4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (NIV)

Heb 13:8

8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (NIV)

UM Discipline

“The Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man that it should be believed as an article of faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament of whose authority was never any doubt in the church.”(32)


Evidence

5) On April 18, 1996, in the midst of General Conference, 15 UM bishops issued a statement expressing their disagreement with the UM Discipline’s proscription against the practice of homosexuality and the ordination of homosexuals. They encouraged the church to change those proscriptions. The bishops who active at the time they signed the statement were: Judith Craig, Ohio West Area; William W. Dew Jr., Portland (Ore.) Area; Calvin D. McConnell, Seattle Area; Susan M. Morrison, Philadelphia Area; Fritz Mutti, Kansas Area; Donald A. Ott, Michigan Area; Sharon Zimmerman Rader, Wisconsin Area; Roy I. Sano, Los Angeles Area; Mary Ann Swenson, Denver Area; Melvin G. Talbert, San Francisco Area; and Joseph H. Yeakel, Washington Area. Retired bishops signing the statement were: C. Dale White, Newport, R.I.; Jesse R. DeWitt, Naperville, Ill.; Leontine T.C. Kelly, San Mateo, Calif.; and Melvin G. Wheatley Jr., Laguna Hills, Calif.

Scripture

Lev 20:13a

13 “‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.”‘ (NIV)

1 Cor 6:9-10.

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; were 03/12/98 neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,

10 nor thieves, nor {the} covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (NAS)

Other similar scriptures: Lev 18:22, Rom 1:26-27

UM Discipline

“Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”(33)

“.. . self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”(34)


Evidence

6) Reconciling Congregations, an unofficial organization for United Methodists, states in its mission statement that it exists to “enable and empower individuals and church organizations for Christian ministries with lesbian, gay and bisexual and other persons.”(35) It actively supports same-sex marriage ceremonies.(36) Reconciling Communities are “United Methodist congregations, campus ministries, conferences and other groups [which] have made a public declaration that they welcome all persons, regardless of sexual orientation to participate fully in the life of their community….[there are] 140 Reconciling Congregations… 21 Reconciling Campus Ministries, 6 Reconciling Conferences [Annual Conferences of the UM church] and 5 other groups.”(37)

Scripture

Lev 20:13a

13 “‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.”‘ (NIV)

1 Cor 6:9-10

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor {the} covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (NAS)

Other similar scriptures: Lev 18:22, Rom 1:26-27

UM Discipline

“In the name of the Holy Scripture we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament of whose authority was never any doubt in the church.”(38)

“Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”(39)


Evidence

7) United Methodist Communications produced a cable network program entitled “Adam & Steve? Same Sex Marriage & Christian Faith.” The program aired on Odyssey Cable Network in early May 1997.(40)

“While acknowledging that marriage as a legal institution involves a man and a woman, the episode urged attention to ‘gay and lesbian couples wanting to make a profession of their coupleness in the eyes of God.'”(41)

Scripture

Lev 20:13a

13 “‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.”‘ (NIV)

1 Cor 6:9-10

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,

10 nor thieves, nor {the} covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (NAS)

Other similar scriptures: Lev 18:22, Rom 1:26-27

UM Discipline

“Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.”(42)


Evidence

8) In early 1997, 15 UM clergy began circulating a letter entitled “In All Things Charity” that challenged the UM Church’s stand on homosexuality. The letter advocates acceptance of homosexuality as a practice consistent with Christianity, ordination of homosexuals and samesex covenantal commitments (marriage)(43)

The letter’s original signers included seminary professors, local church pastors, UM staff persons and one District Superintendent. By January 16, 1998, 1300 UM clergy had signed “In All Things Charity.”(44)

Scripture

Lev 20:13a

13 “‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.”‘ (NIV)

1 Cor 6:9-10

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor {the} covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (NAS)

Other similar scriptures: Lev 18:22, Rom 1 26-27

UM Discipline

“Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”(45)

“… self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”(46)


Evidence

9) Questions of Faith V, video series, #3, “Can Faith Wipe Out Fear?”(47)–Statement of Tex Sample, United Methodist, professor, Saint Paul School of Theology (UM Seminary): “I believe homosexuality is created of God, it’s good.”

Tex Sample is scheduled to be a Bible study leader at the United Methodist Women’s Assembly May 14- 17, 1998.(48)

Scripture

Lev 20:13a

13 “‘If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.”‘ (NIV)

1 Cor 6:9-10

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor {the} covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (NAS)

Other similar scriptures: Lev 18:22, Rom 1:26-27

UM Discipline

“Homosexual persons no less than heterosexual persons are individuals of sacred worth. All persons need the ministry and guidance of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others, and with self. Although we do not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider this practice incompatible with Christian teaching, we affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”(49)

“… self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be accepted as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.”(50)


Evidence

10) The official UM policy on abortion is pro-choice.

On April 29, 1996, a letter was Drafted by the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (of which the UM church is a member organization) to go to all Congressional Representatives to express agreement with President Clinton’s veto of HR 1833, the “Partial Birth Abortion Ban.” The letter states “the government must not legislate, and thus impose, one religious view on all our citizens. To do so violated our most cherished tradition of religious freedom.”(51) This letter was signed by 6 UM leaders including Dr. Thom White Wolf Fassett, Executive Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, Lois Dauway, Women’s Division, Bishop Susan Morrison, and Dr. M. Douglas Meeks, Dean, Wesley Theological Seminary.

At the 1996 General Conference, a decision was made to allow the General Board of Church and Society and the Women’s Division to continue to actively participate in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Also, an addendum for “the rights of the unborn” was defeated, as were all the resolutions that would have changed the Discipline to be pro-life.

Scripture

Jer 1:5

5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (NIV)

Isa 44:24

24 “This is what the LORD says-your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,” (NIV)

Ps 139:13

13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (NIV)

UM Discipline

“The beginning of life and the ending of life are the God-given boundaries of human existence. While individuals have always had some degree of control over when they would die, they now have the awesome power to determine when and even whether new individuals will be born. our belief in the sanctity of unborn human life makes us reluctant to approve abortion. But we are equally bound to respect the sacredness of the life and well-being of the mother, for whom devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy. In continuity with past Christian teaching, we recognize tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion, and in such cases we support the legal option of abortion under proper medical procedures. We cannot affirm abortion as an acceptable means of birth control, and we unconditionally reject it as a means of gender selection. We call all Christians to a searching and prayerful inquiry into the sorts of conditions that may warrant abortion. We commit our Church to continue to provide nurturing ministries to those who terminate a pregnancy, to those in the midst of a crisis pregnancy, and to those who give birth. Governmental laws and regulations do not provide all the guidance required by the informed Christian conscience. Therefore, a decision concerning abortion should be made only after thoughtful and prayerful consideration by the parties involved, with medical, pastoral, and other appropriate counsel.”(52) “We support the legal right to abortion as established by the 1973 Supreme Court decision.”(53)

“We therefore encourage our churches and common society to:…

7. Safeguard the legal option of abortion under standards of sound medical practice, make abortions available to women without regard to economic standards of sound medical practice, and make abortions available to women without regard to economic status…

9. Assist the states to make provisions in law and in practice for treating as adults minors who have, or think they have, venereal diseases, or female minors who are, or think they are, pregnant, thereby eliminating the legal necessity for notifying parents or guardians prior to care and treatment. Parental support is crucially important and most desirable on such occasions, but needed treatment ought not be contingent on such support;”(54)


C. Worship of Other Gods

Evidence

1) Statement of Bishop Roy Sano: “. . . this is a part of my faith that I have increasingly taken seriously of being bi-cultural.. There was a time when I used to think how can I be Christian and yet Buddhist? Increasingly as I become aware of the extent to which my Japanese culture and its Buddhism is still a part of me, I’m beginning to say how can I be Christian without being Buddhist?”(55)

Scripture

John 14:6

6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (NIV)

Acts 4:12

12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (NIV)

UM Discipline

“There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

“The offering of Christ, once made, is that perfect redemption, propitiation, and satisfaction for all the sins of the whole world, both original and actual; and there is none other satisfaction for sin but that alone. Wherefore the sacrifice of masses, in the which it is commonly said that the priest doth offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain or guilt, is a blasphemous fable and dangerous deceit.”(56)


Evidence

2) Rosemary Radford Ruether is a tenured professor at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary, a UM seminary. On May 4, 1995, Professor Radford presided at the weekly Garrett chapel service and used a litany from Theresa Winter’s Women Wisdom which included prayers addressed to various goddesses:

Caller: Who are you, O Holy one?

Voice: I am Cybele, the Great Mother Goddess of ancient Anatolia.

People: Fill us, Cybele, Great Mother Goddess, with Your long-lived Nurturing Spirit.”(57)

Garrett-Theological Seminary President Neal F. Fisher ultimately admitted use of the litany was inappropriate .(58)

Scripture

Exod 20:3, 5

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

5 “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORI} your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,” (NIV)

Exod 23:13

3 “Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.” (NIV)

1 Cor 8:5-6

5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many ‘lords”),

6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (NIV)

UM Discipline

“There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”(59)


Evidence

3) On November 4-7, 1993, an ecumenical conference called “Re-Imagining A Global Theological Conference by Women” was held in conjunction with the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women. Throughout the conference, Sophia was worshiped as a deity. As the conference began, the attendees sang a chorus to Sophia over and over: “Now Sophia, dream the vision, share the wisdom dwelling deep within.”(60) The program book for the event stated: “We invoke Sophia, Divine Wisdom, who chose to play with all the people of the world. Her voice has been silenced too long. Let her speak and bless us throughout these days”.(61) There was also a milk and honey service worshiping Sophia instead of the traditional communion service.

The Women’s Division of the UMC decided that it would fund the attendance of staff members or directors as well as conference UMW vice-presidents. As a result of that decision, $35,081 was paid for the attendance of 36 directors, 9 staff members and 11 UMW conference vice presidents. An additional $2500 grant was given by the Women’s Division for Minnesota scholarships to the conferences.(62)

Three UM Bishops attended: Bishop Forrest C. Stith (New York Area), Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher (Minnesota Area), and Bishop Susan M. Morrison (Philadelphia Area). Seven of the program leaders for the workshops were United Methodists (UM professors, clergy and laity). A UM clergywoman, Rev. Kathi Austin Mahle, was the Co-Chair of the ReImagining Conference Steering Committee.(63) Subsequent to the event, in 1997, Rev. Mahle was promoted to the position of District Superintendent by Bishop John Hopkins.(64)

The Women’s Division has never disavowed or condemned the theology expressed at the Re-Imagining Conference. In fact, the books of nine of the speakers at Re-Imagining had been published by or recommended by the Women’s Division.(65)

A group of UMs, including Bishop Susan Morrison, issued a statement in support of Re-Imagining called “A Time of Hope—A Time of Threat.” In late 1994, The Council of Bishops released a statement that basically was a dissertation on “Sophia,” the Greek word for wisdom and how it is used in scripture.(66)

A Re-Imagining Community was formed shortly after the 1993 ReImagining Conference.(67) Since 1993, it has sponsored three additional national Re-Imagining Conferences. The current Coordinating Council of the Re-Imagining Community includes 3 UM clergy and one UMW Jurisdictional President. l5 One of the UM clergy, Rev. Marylee Fithian, is the Co-Chair of the Council.

Another related event was “Celebrate,” an ecumenical youth conference that received $10,500 from the General Board on Higher Education and Ministry and was attended by 449 UM students and clergy. The keynote speaker was Rita Nakashima Brock, a feminist theologian. She was also a speaker at the original Re-Imagining Conference and the keynote speaker at the 1994 Re-Imagining Event.(68)

At the 1996 Re-Imagining Event, the milk and honey ritual in honor of Sophia was again celebrated. In addition, Letty M. Russell, who is discussed in “Authority of Scripture,” #3 of this report, spoke during the first conference session which focused on “erotic spirituality.” She stated that “the erotic is the fullest expression of God’s love.”(69)

Re-Imagining Revival is scheduled for April 16-18, 1998.

Scripture

Exod 20:3, 5

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

5 ‘You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,” (NIV)

Exod 23:13

13 “Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.” (NIV)

1 Cor 8:5-6

5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”),

6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (NIV)

UM Discipline

“There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”(70)


Evidence

4) In 1989, Susan Cady and Hal Taussig, both ordained UM pastors in the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference wrote a book with Marian Ronan (Catholic) called Wisdom’s Feast: Sophia in Study and Celebration. It provides background information on the goddess, Sophia, and includes sermons, Bible studies, prayers and worship litanies concerning her. A new edition of this book has now been published under the same title.

The authors of the book assert consistently that Sophia is divine being co-equal with Yahweh: “There is a hint here that Sophia is not derivative or secondary to Yahweh, but rather existed in her own right before creation…”(71) They also denigrate the role of Jesus referring to Him as “the prophet and child of Sophia” and as “Sophia’s envoy.”(72)

Scripture

Exod 20:3, 5

3 “You shall have no other gods before me.

5 “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,” (NIV)

Exod 23:13

13 “Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips.” (NIV)

1 Cor 8:5-6

5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”),

6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. (NIV)

UM Discipline

“There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body or parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the maker and preserver of all things, both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there are three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity–the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”(73)


III. Response to the Doctrinal Crisis

A. By Marietta First United Methodist Church

While much of what is contained in this report may seem new, in fact, the Board of Stewards (a/k/a Administrative Board) has addressed these topics on many prior occasions. First, our church has been redirecting its apportionments for the “Interdenominational Cooperation Funds to the “World Service and Conference Benevolences Fund” for over twenty-five years.(74) According to the memories of those who have been around that long, this decision was made in order that our church’s funds would not be used for the World Council of Churches.

In the last ten years, our Board of Stewards has taken 7 separate actions concerning the crisis in our church. Most of these included the adoption of a resolution or declaration:

  • February 14, 1988—Adoption of the Houston Declaration, which is attached as Exhibit A;
  • Early, 1988—Adoption of the Memphis Declaration, which is attached as Exhibit B.;
  • February 13, 1994—Adoption of a resolution condemning the ReImagining Conference of 1993, which is attached and marked Exhibit C;
  • September 14, 1994—Approved signature of the “Invitation to the Church” from the Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church, which is attached and marked Exhibit D. The effect of this action was for our church to become a “confessing church” and to align itself with the Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church; March 12, 1995—Adoption of a petition to the North Georgia Annual Conference entitled “A Call to Reaffirm the Centrality of Christ” which is attached and marked Exhibit E.;
  • March 12, 1995— Adoption of a petition to the North Georgia Annual Conference entitled regarding Doctrinal Integrity” which is attached and marked Exhibit F;
  • May 14, 1995—Endorsement of “A Resolution of Affirmation” that was the text of the “Confessional Statement of the Confessing Movement within The United Methodist Church” which is attached and marked Exhibit G.

The last three documents that were noted were actually petitions to the North Georgia Annual Conference of 1995. These petitions, if passed by the Annual Conference, would be referred to the 1996 General Conference for action. Prior to the Annual Conference meeting, our church was asked by the bishop to withdraw from consideration the “Confessional Statement of the Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church” (Exhibit D). Trinity United Methodist Church in Atlanta had submitted a resolution opposing the Confessing Movement and the bishop asked them to withdraw their resolution as well. He wanted to keep the Confessing Movement from becoming a divisive issue at the meeting.

Our lay delegates and our pastor presented the other two petitions at the Annual Conference meeting. Since our petitions had not previously been reviewed by any conference committee, the first step in the process at the Annual Conference meeting was for our pastor and lay delegate to meet with the Committee on Resolutions. That Committee has the authority to decide which resolutions reach the floor for debate. At that Committee meeting there was real opposition to the “Call to Reaffirm the Centrality of Jesus Christ.” After much questioning and debate, our church representatives were told that the resolution would not be allowed to go to the floor unless two changes were made in the resolution. Attached and marked Exhibit H is the resolution as it was revised at that committee meeting and as it ultimately was passed by the Annual Conference. The other resolution, “Regarding Doctrinal Integrity,” was passed without change or comment.

At the 1996 General Conference, “Regarding Doctrinal Integrity” and “Call to Reaffirm the Centrality of Christ” were assigned to the Discipleship Committee.(75) That Committee recommended “non-concurrence” with both resolutions. Both resolutions were placed on a consent calendar and the plenary session voted in compliance with the non-concurrence recommendation. Thus, the General Conference rejected both of our resolutions.

Thus, Marietta First United Methodist Church has made significant efforts to effect change in the denomination through generally accepted channels with no success.


B. By United Methodist-Related Renewal Groups

Good News is the oldest of the renewal groups within United Methodism having been formed over 30 years ago. Throughout that entire period, it has been aggressively defending the viewpoint of traditional, evangelical UMs.(76) For the last several General Conferences, Good News has published position statements on the main issues facing the delegates, has helped organize evangelicals who are delegates to conference and has been a significant presence at General Conference advocating the cause of classical Christianity. It has participated in dialogues with denominational staff representatives and other denominational leaders in an effort to inform them of the beliefs of traditional UMs as well as to seek favorable resolution to the many issues that face us.(77) It has been at the forefront of the efforts to renew and revive United Methodism. Its magazine has been a primary and invaluable means of informing the evangelicals of the church concerning denominational matters.

Good News has always taken the position that the denomination could be renewed without schism. It has only been in the last few years that it has even acknowledged withholding of apportionments as a viable response.(78) Therefore, its press release of February 3, 1998 is significant because it recognizes for the first time that the denomination may not survive intact.(79) It reports that at the January 1998 meeting “the board of directors raised the question of whether the theological differences that threaten the unity of the denomination might, in fact, be irreconcilable…”(80)

The Confessing Movement within the United Methodist Church was launched in April 1994 at a meeting in Atlanta. Our pastor, Charles Sineath, was one of the 92 clergy and laity that attended that organizational meeting. The Confessing Movement was formed to be “a witness by United Methodist lay men and women, clergy, and congregations who pledge unequivocal and confident allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ…”(81) Its purpose is to “contend for the apostolic faith within the United Methodist Church.”(82)

At an April 1995 meeting, again in Atlanta, which was attended by several members of Marietta First United Methodist Church, a “Confessional Statement of the Confessing Movement Within The United Methodist Church” was drafted. That statement framed the issue before us: “Will The United Methodist Church confess, and be unified by, the apostolic faith in Jesus Christ; or will The United Methodist Church challenge the primacy of Scripture and justify the acceptance of beliefs incompatible with our Articles of Religion and Confession of Faith?”(83)

UMAction is the United Methodist Committee of the Institute on Religion and Democracy. It was formed in 1994. Its focus is primarily on the Boards, Agencies and other institutions of the United Methodist Church.

UMAction has been instrumental in performing a “watchdog” function within the United Methodist Church. Its purpose is consistent with that of Good News, to help return United Methodism to classical Christianity.

RENEW Network is the evangelical coalition for United Methodist Women. It was formed in 1989 to work for renewal within the Women’s Division and United Methodist Women. During its existence, it has been present for most of the Women’s Division meetings, many of the ecumenical gatherings for women, including all of the Re-Imagining Events, and many local United Methodist Women’s meetings. It has produced and distributed study books and reading materials that were Biblically based and doctrinally faithful to United Methodism. This has been necessary because of the liberal and aberrant theology expressed in many of the Women’s Division publications.(84) RENEW has also offered evangelical mission opportunities to the local units of United Methodist Women. Finally, it has, like Good News and UMAction, served a “watchdog” function with regard to the Women’s Division. One of the members of Marietta First United Methodist Church serves on the Steering Committee of RENEW.

In addition to these renewal groups, there are Four others that are oriented to a single issue or focus. The Mission Society for United Methodists (MSUM) is seeking to mobilize United Methodists to obey the Great Commission. It serves as a sending agency for evangelical United Methodists whom God has called to cross-cultural ministry. The Mission Society gives United Methodists the opportunity to serve on mission fields and with mission ministries that are not available to them with the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM). Since GBGM typically does not go to a mission field unless the nationals invite them, United Methodists who are called, for example, to Bible translation or unreached people groups would be unable to fulfill that call but for MSUM. Marietta First United Methodist is one of MSUM’s largest supporters of its missionaries and has had representation on the MSUM Board of Directors for several years.

Lifewatch: The Taskforce of United Methodists on Abortion and Sexuality advocates the pro-life position within the United Methodist Church.

Transforming Congregations calls the church to be in ministry to homosexual persons, but affirms the biblical witness that homosexual practice is sin and that the power of the Holy Spirit is available to transform the life of the homosexual. It is the counterpoint to Reconciling Congregations.

Finally, A Foundation for Theological Education makes educational grants to evangelical United Methodist students of the highest caliber who are pursuing doctoral degrees. The goal is to enable evangelical students to complete their training and be available for placement on the United Methodist seminaries’ staffs.

From this survey, it becomes very clear that the cause of renewal has been vigorously advocated for many, many years. Dedicated United Methodists lay and clergy have joined together to champion the cause of the apostolic faith in every arena of church life. This brings us full circle to the press release of Good News referred to in the second paragraph that for the first time speculated about the possibility that the theological differences within the United Methodist Church are irreconcilable. In spite of concerted, broad-based and long-standing renewal efforts, little has changed in the life of the institutional United Methodist Church.

C. By the United Methodist Church

The lack of improvement in the doctrinal health of the denomination is no where more apparent than when we consider the response of the institutional church to all the calls for change and renewal. After reviewing the evidence in Part II of this report, an obvious question should have occurred to any concerned United Methodist: have any United Methodist clergy, seminary professors or other church leaders been disciplined for their espousals of aberrant or heretical theology?

As noted in the report itself, one clergywoman, Kathi Mahle, was actually promoted to District Superintendent following her involvement as Co-Chairman of the Steering Committee of the first Re-Imagining event.

Another glaring example of the denomination’s failure to respond concerns Susan Cole and Hal Taussig, the authors of Wisdom’s Feast: Sophia in Study and Celebration. In the Preface to the New Edition of Wisdom’s Feast, the authors go to some length to chronicle the many efforts that were made by laity to have them disciplined for their promotion of the worship of Sophia. None of those efforts were successful.

On July 15, 1995, the Rev. Jeanne Audrey Powers, who was at that time the associate general secretary of the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, addressed the Reconciling Congregations Convocation. She also serves on the Reconciling Congregations Board of Directors. During her address, she identified herself as a lesbian.(85) Rev. Powers indicated that her lesbianism was well-known by “many, many people in our church.” She categorized her admission as a political act, intended as “an act of resistance to false teachings that have contributed to heresy and homophobia within the church itself.” Rev. Powers stated that she had no intention of revealing whether or not she was a “practicing” lesbians.(86) This is a reference to Paragraph 304.3 of the Discipline that prohibits the ordination and appointment of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals.”

The Good News Board, during its summer meeting, responded to Rev. Powers’ admission with a statement calling for disciplinary action by the supervisory personnel of the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns and by the Minnesota (Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. A copy of the Good News article, which includes the entire text of the Good News statement, is attached as Exhibit J.

The General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns issued a statement on July 21, 1995, indicating that they did not believe that the Commission needed to take action against Rev. Powers. It also stated that Rev. Powers’s “proclamation is not a statement representing the Commission, but it is a personal and confessional statement about her identity as a ‘good gift from God.”’(87)

James V. Heidinger, II, President and Publisher of Good News, wrote to Bishop William Boyd Grove, President and Rev. Bruce W. Robbins, General Secretary of the General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns by letter dated September 1, 1995 which is attached as Exhibit K. Mr. Heidinger reminded them that under Paragraph 906.12 (806.12 in the 1996 Discipline), disciplinary action must be taken against Rev. Powers. He also maintained that she violated this paragraph by using her denominational position to advocate homosexuality which she clearly acknowledged in her original characterization of her admission as a political act designed to effect change in the denominational policy against acceptance of the homosexual lifestyle.

Mr. Heidinger also asserted that to base a failure to discipline Rev. Powers on the loophole of whether or not she is a “practicing homosexual” really begged the question. As he pointed out, “Many of us may have various ‘orientations’ that we have not incorporated as a part of our ‘identity.”’(88) Mr. Heidinger went on to remind them that Rev. Powers had also admitted that “she was ‘partnered’ for 17 years and then went through a painful divorce.”(89) To the most casual observer, this would indicate that Rev. Powers was a “practicing homosexual.” He expressed great concern that Rev. Powers was continuing to function in a position in which she represented the United Methodist Church to the entire ecumenical community.

By letter dated September 14, 1995, Bishop Grove and Rev. Robbins responded to Mr. Heidinger’s letter. A copy of it is attached as Exhibit L. They again asserted that Rev. Powers’s admission was only as to identity not as to practice. They also said, “Jeanne Audrey Powers has spoken forthrightly and honestly about her understanding of her sexual identity. Should she be reprimanded or removed for telling the truth about herself?”(90) They went on to ask, “Does the vow taken by members in Full Connection [ordained pastors] to ‘support and maintain our discipline and polity’ mean that members cannot publicly disagree with church teaching on a particular subject?”(91)

Rev. Powers was never disciplined or penalized in any way. She has since retired.

Rev. Jimmy Creech, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Omaha, Nebraska, advised Bishop Joel N. Martinez in late summer, 1997, that he planned to perform a same-sex covenanting service for two of his lesbian members. Bishop Martinez counseled Rev. Creech that such an action would definitely bring a written complaint against him for violating the Discipline.(92) On September 14, 1997, Rev. Creech performed the samesex covenanting service at the First United Methodist Church of Omaha.(93)

On November 10, 1997, Rev. Creech was temporarily suspended from his duties at First United Methodist Church of Omaha. On January 23, 1998, a Nebraska Committee on Investigation recommended that he stand church trial for among other things, “Disobedience to the Order and Discipline of The United Methodist Church.” The trial is scheduled for March 11-12, 1998 in Kearney, Nebraska with retired Bishop Leroy C. Hodapp presiding.(94) Rev. Creech has said that he is “challenging the antigay stand in the Social Principles.”(95) The final outcome of this disciplinary matter will be extremely important for the denomination because of the timing and the atmosphere in which it is occurring.

At the 1996 General Conference there was a determined effort to change the Discipline paragraphs that are disapproving of the practice of homosexuality.(96) Affirmation, Reconciling Congregations, the Methodist Federation for Social Action, and the National Women’s Caucus led an aggressive lobbying campaign for approval of homosexuality.(97) Then, as noted in Part II, in that atmosphere, the 15 dissident bishops issued their statement indicating their opposition to the church’s stand against homosexual practices.

A proposal had been made that would change the language in what is now Paragraph 65G of the Discipline that states that “the practice of homosexuality … is inconsistent with Christian teaching.” In its place would be language that stated that United Methodists are “unable to arrive at a common mind” on this subject.(98) The Church and Society committee recommended that the change in the wording be made, so the argument to retain the disapproval of the practice of homosexuality was presented as a “minority” report. In spite of all these efforts by the pro-gay lobby, the Conference delegates voted 378-577 against this effort to change the wording of Paragraph 65G.(99)

The 1996 General Conference delegates voted to add the following language to what is now Paragraph 65C of the Discipline: “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.” Additionally, the delegates retained the language of what is now of Paragraph 304.3 prohibiting the ordination of “self-avowed practicing homosexuals” and added a footnote which attempts to define that phrase. Finally, the delegates voted to retain the prohibition what is now Paragraph 806.12 against the use of funds “to promote the acceptance of homosexuality.”(100)

Since the 1996 General Conference, the homosexual lobbying groups have continued to aggressively pursue the changing of the policy of the United Methodist Church on the practice on homosexuality. It is obvious from even a cursory review of the Internet web pages of these groups that a concerted and orchestrated effort is being made.(101) In these months leading up to Rev. Creech’s trial, the following actions have occurred:

  • In All Things Charity discussed in Part II. B. was released
  • “In All Things Charity” was publicized again in January 1998 noting the number of signatories as a show of support for Rev. Creech,(102)
  • The Board of Directors of Reconciling Congregations “announced its unanimous support for Rev. Jimmy Creech” for performing the same-sex ceremony,(103)
  • CORNET (COvenant Relationships NETwork) was formed by Affirmation, United Methodists for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Concerns, and
  • On Valentine’s Day, 1998, CORNET sponsored and called for services to celebrate the love and recommitment for all persons. “One facet of these events is to protest” the statement in the Discipline prohibiting same-sex ceremonies.(104) Services were held at UM churches in New York, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Seattle, and Columbia, MD.

From all of these events, it is clear that the homosexual lobby within the United Methodist Church did not accept the rulings of the 1996 General Conference and intends to do all it can to change the stand against the practice of homosexuality. The trial of Rev. Creech will be an important indicator as to whether or not the leadership of the denomination is willing to enforce the will of the United Methodist Church as expressed by the 1996 General Conference.

The United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns, at the direction of the 1996 General Conference, sponsored a two part “Dialogue on Theological Diversity” November 20-21, 1997 and February 19-20, 1998. The dialogue participants were 22 United Methodists laity and clergy including bishops, seminary professors, local church pastors and lay leaders. There are multiple news reports of these two meetings available on the United Methodist News Service’s Internet Web Site.(105) At the first of these meetings, Bishop Judith Craig made her comments, discussed in Part II. B. #4, concerning the belief of liberal theologians that the Bible does not contain all truth but rather “new truth” is being revealed.

These meetings have definitely been helpful in defining the issues that divide the theological liberals from the theological conservatives and they are significant. A paper entitled “In Search of Unity” was drafted summarizing the meeting says, “We believe we may experience substantive disagreement around a variety of theological faith [sic]; the meaning of the incarnation; and our views on the saving work of Christ, to name a few. All of these arise out of differing understanding of Scriptural authority and revelation. However, in this document, we have turned to the practice of homosexuality as illustrative of our divergence because it is one of the most visible presenting in United Methodism today.”(106) “In Search of Unity” will be edited and released about March 2, 1998. The publishing of this paper will conclude the theological dialogues.

Tom McAnally, the United Methodist News reporter, in trying to summarize the mood of the participants returned to a metaphor that had been used throughout the dialogue meetings “of liberals and conservatives trying to live in the same house.”(107)

For some, it was likened to the biblical reference of “in my Father’s house there are many mansions.” But for others, it was compared to an unwanted guest who came into the house and stayed. The Rev Joy Moore [a dialogue participant]…said United Methodists have been given a house from generations past, a house they have come to like. “We’ve opened it to everybody,” she said. “One of our neighbors came and chose to stay…we spent a lot of time cleaning up their mess. They don’t follow the same rules we do… they have changed their address to our house.” As a result of these unwanted guests, Moore said many United Methodists don’t want to live there anymore. She said many members are leaving the denomination because, like the house, “the people living there don’t represent who the church used to be.”(108)

Rev. Moore has done an excellent job of summarizing the state of our denomination much as Jude summarized the state of the church at the time of his writing:

Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. Jude 1:3-4 (NIV)


Footnotes

1. “Our Doctrinal Standards and General Rules,” Paragraph 62, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996. This paragraph is attached as Appendix A.

2. For a detailed historical treatment of the doctrinal crisis in the church, see Beyond the Point of No Return by Dr. Calvin B. Johnson, 2988 North Main Street, Danville, VA 24540. For a scholarly treatment of those same issues, see Waking from Doctrinal Amnesia by Dr. William J. Abraham, published by Abingdon Press.

3. For a detailed treatment of the crisis in UM seminaries, see Requiem: A Lament in Three Movements by Thomas C. Oden, published by Abingdon Press.

4. See the “Evidence” section of the report for documentation of this.

5. See the “Evidence” section of the report for documentation of this.

6. Questions of Faith is produced in part by United Methodist Communications and is distributed by EcuFilm, an ecumenical film/video distribution service whose cooperating groups include the United Methodist Church. This film series is marketed to UM Churches for use in Christian education.

7. Paragraph 62, Article II– of the Word, or Son of God, Who Was Made Very Man, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

8. Bishop’s Column, Northern Illinois Conference United Methodist Reporter, May 9, 1997, page 1.

9. Paragraph 62, Article II– of the Word, or Son of God, Who Was Made Very Man, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

10a. Journeys by Heart is recommended in the Women’s Division 1993-94 Spiritual Growth Book, Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew by Nancy A. Carter with contributions by Leontine T.C. Kelly, “Selected Bibliography, Books with Material on Christology”, page 151.

10b. See “Worship of other gods,” #3.

11. 6 Journeys by heart: A Christology of Erotic Power, page xii.

12. 7 Journeys by heart: A Christology of Erotic Power, page 52.

13. Paragraph G2, Article II– of the Word, or Son of God, Who Was Made Very Man, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

14. Response, January 1992, page 30-31.

15. Paragraph 62, Article II– of the Word, or Son of God, Who Was Made Very Man, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996

16. 11 “Commentary on the Re-Imagining Controversy,” published by RENEW; “Excerpts from the tapes of “Re-Imagining,” Tape 3-2, Side B.

17. Paragraph 62, Article XX of the One Oblation of Christ, Finished upon the Cross, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

18a. Women-Church was praised and recommended for its worship rituals in the Women’s Division 1992-93 mission study book, We Belong Together: Churches in Solidarity with Women by Sarah Cunningham, pages 66-68.

18b. Disputed Questions on Being A Christian by Rosemary Radford Ruether, “Preface to New Edition,” page 9.

19. 14 Ibid, page 103.

20. Paragraph 62, Article XX–of the One Oblation of Christ, Finished upon the Cross, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996

21. l Good News, Jan/:Feb) 199d, page 8.

22. Ibid.

23. 3 Ibid.

24. Article V–of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

25. The News & Observer, Durham Edition, Friday, February 20, 1998, page 1A, 10A.

26. Report of Mark Tooley, press representative, February 23, 1998.

27. 7 Article V–of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

28. Quoted in The Feminist Gospel by Mary A. Kassian, pages 169, 171.

29. Struggle to be the Sun Again by Chung Hyun Kyung, page 106.

30. Article V–of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

31. United Methodist News Service, Release #659, 11/24/97 reporting on the first dialogue (November 20-21, 1997) between the liberals and conservatives sponsored by the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity anal Interreligious Concerns.

32. Article V–of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

33. Paragraph 65(F), The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church, 1996.

34. Paragraph 304.3, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

35. “Mission Statement”, Internet Web Page, http://www.rcp.org

36. United Methodist News Service, “Reconciling Congregations unanimously supports Creech,” February 23, 1998.

37. “Reconciling Communities,” Internet Web Pages http://www.rcp.org/

38. Article V–of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

39. Paragraph 65(F), The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

40. Nashville Banner, “Watchdogs slam show about gays” by Frances Meeker, June 19, 1997.

41. Nashville Banner, “Watchdogs slam show about gays” by Frances Meeker, June 19, 1997 and Scriptures Alive!, “Adam & Steve? Same Sex Marriage & Christian faith” Transcript.

42. Paragraph 65C, The Book of Discipline of tile United Methodist Church, 1996.

43. “In A11 Things Charity,” January 1, 1997

44. Northern Illinois Conference The United Methodist Reporter, January 19, 14 , page 1.

45. Paragraph 65(F), The Book of Discipline of the Unified Methodist Church, 1996.

46. Paragraph 304.3, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

47. See “Person and Work of Jesus Christ,” 1st Footnote.

48. United Methodist News Service, “United Methodist Women Gather at Orlando Assembly,” February 27, 1998.

49. Paragraph 65(F), The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

50. Paragraph 304.3, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

51. Letter date April 29, 1996 on letterhead of Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, addressed to Congressional representatives and having several signatories.

52. Paragraph 65J, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church,1996.

53. “Responsible Parenthood,” The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church, 1996, page 126-128.

54. “Responsible Parenthood,” The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church, 1996, page 126 128.

55. Questions of Faith II, video series, #3,”Who is Jesus?” See “Person and Work of Jesus Christ,” # l, 1st Footnote.

56. Article I–of Faith in the Holy Trinity, Article XX–of the One Oblation of Christ, Finished upon the Cross, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

57. Worship bulletin for Garrett-Evangelical theological Seminary Chapel Service, May 4, 1995.

58. Good News, Sept/Oct 1955, page 35.

59. Article I–of Faith in the Holy Trinity, Article XX–of the One Oblation of Christ, Finished upon the Cross, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

60. Commentary on the Re-Imagining Controversy,” published by RENEW; “Excerpts from the tapes of “Re-Imagining,” Tape l, ,Side A.

61. 7 Re-Imagining Conference Program Book, page 153.

62. “Fact Sheet Concerning the ‘Re Imagining Conference and the Women’s Division of The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries” dated 1/4/94 and signed by Joyce D. Sohl, Deputy General Secretary, Women’s Division; $35,081 verified by telephone call to Connie Takamine, Women’s Division.

63. “Commentary on the Re-Imagining Controversy,” published by the RENEW Network

64. Minnesota Edition of United Methodist Reporter, Leader, February 21, 1997.

65. The following six Re-Imagining Speakers have appeared on Women’s Division Reading Lists or in Response magazine: Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Chung Hyun Kyung, Aruna Gnanadason, Johanna W.H. Bos, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, and Mercy Oduyoye. At least two of these have appeared as recently as the 1997 and 1998 Reading Lists.

“Three others were recommended for additional reading in the “Selected Bibliography, Books with Material on Christology”, Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, the Women’s Division 1993-94 Spiritual Growth Study: Rita Nakashima Brock, Jacquelyn Grant, and Susan Thistlethwaite. Jacquelyn Grant was also recommended in the Bibliography of We Belong Together: Churches in Solidarity with Women, the Women’s Division 1992-93 mission study book.”

66. The full text of the paper’s conclusions is in Good News, Jan/Feb l996, page 36.

67. Re-Imaging Community Internet Web Page http://home.earthling.net/~mfithian/

68. See Pierson and Work of Jesus Christ”, #3 for more information on Ms. Brock’s theology.

69. Partnership Briefing, The Institute of Religion and Democracy, Fall 1996.

70. Article I–of Faith in the Holy Trinity, Article XX–of the One Oblation of Christ, Finished upon the Cross, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

71. Wisdom’s Feast: Sophia in Study and Celebration by Susan Cole, Marian Ronan, and Hal Taussig, page l3.

72. Ibid.

73. Article I–of Faith in the Holy Trinity, Article XX–of the One Oblation of Christ, Finished upon the Cross, The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church, 1996.

74. Rev. Sam Storey indicated that was the case even prior to the time he was appointed here as a youth pastor.

75. Both resolutions indicate they were submitted by individuals/groups other than the North Georgia Conference. The wording of the both resolutions, however, is almost identical to those passed by our conference so we have assumed that similarly worded resolutions were consolidated for voting purposes.

76. The January/February, 1992 issue of Good News magazine chronicles the first 25 years.

77. See back issues of Good News magazine.

78. “In Defense of Responsible Giving,” Report of Good News Special Task Force, March 25. 1997, attached as Exhibit I.

79. “Good News Board Asks: Can Two Houses of United Methodism Live Together?,” Good News Press Release, February 3, 1998.

80. Ibid.

81. “What is The Confessing Movement Within The United Methodist Church?,” a brochure of the Confessing Movement.

82. Ibid.

83. “A Confessional Statement of the Confessing Movement Within The United Methodist Church” dated April 29, 1995.

84. “See the “Evidence” section of the report for documentation of this.

85. United Methodist News Service, “United Methodist clergywoman reveals she is a lesbian,” July 17, 1995.

86. Ibid.

87. 14 “Response to the Good News Board of Directors statement about Jeanne Audrey Powers by Bishop William Boyd Grove, President and Bruce W. Robbins, General Secretary, The General Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns” dated July 21, 1995.

88. Letter from James V. Heidinger, II to Bishop William Boyd Grove and Rev. Bruce W. Robbins dated September 1, 1995, which is attached as Exhibit K.

89. Ibid.

90. “An Open Letter to the Board of Directors of Good News” signed by Bishop William Boyd Grove, President and Rev. Dr. Bruce W. Robbins, General Secretary.

91. Ibid.

92. United Methodist News Service, “Covenanting ceremony for same sex partners to be held at First United Methodist Church in Omaha, ‘ September 12, 1997.

93. United Methodist News Service, “Same Sex Ceremony Update,” September 16, 1997.

94. 21 United Methodist News Service, “March Church Trial set for pastor who performed samesex ceremony,” February 12, 1998.

95. United Methodist News Service. “Pastor facing church trial says denomination’s stand on homosexuality compromises its integrity,” February 16, 1998.

96. 23 Good News, May/June 1996, pages 16-17.

97. Ibid. and United Methodist News Service. “Gays still not welcome in church, says Reconciling Congregations Group,” April 18, 1996.

98. United Methodist News Service, “Hold Line on Homosexuality,” April 24, 1996. Release #048.

99. Ibid.

100. Good News, May/June 1996, pages 16-17.

101. Affirmation: United Methodists for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Concerns, http://www.umaffirm.ora CORNET, the United Methodist Covenant Relationships Network, http://www.umaffirm.org/cornet/index2.html Reconciling Congregations http://www.rcp.org

102. Northern Illinois Conference The United Methodist Reporter, January 19, 1998, page 1.

103. United Methodist News Service, “Reconciling Congregations unanimously supports Creech,” February 23, 1998.

104. CORNET Internet Web Page, “Valentine ’98 Celebrates God’s Gift of Love and Fidelity,”

105. http://umns.umc.org/index.html

106. United Methodist News Service, “Homosexuality cited by dialogue participants as one of major issues threatening schism in church,” February 23, 1998.

107. These theological dialogue meetings were the source for the metaphor of two houses of United Methodism used by Good News in their February 3, 1998 news release discussed earlier in Part III A.

108. United Methodist News Service, “Dialogues on theological diversity end, search for unity continues,” February 23. 1998.


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A reader (Paul Anthony Preussler) has been making a number of  comments on my blogs. Paul has made me aware of a popular postmodern (Emerging/Emergent) UMC blogger, Rev. Jeremy Smith, who goes by the handle of UMJeremy. I realize UMJeremy is just one of many postmodern voices in the increasingly liberal UMC, but he is a loud voice that well represents where the UMC is heading. To put it another way, UMJeremy is one small but very noisy cog in the huge wheel of postmodern United Methodists. (Yes Jeremy, you can take this as a compliment if you wish.)

I realize that to many I come across as attacking individuals, but this is not my intent. It’s likely that, if I met UMJeremy on the street, I would view him as an amicable, sociable fellow. But brotherly love, human fellowship and Christian unity should never trump biblically sound doctrine. If an individual is spreading postmodern heresies and thus tearing down the true, born again Body of Christ, I will call that individual out no matter who he or she is.

UMJeremy has a blog named “Hacking Christianity”. His blogs strike me as typically postmodern musings. They fit the mold of postmoderns Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo, etc. etc. Click here for his Manifesto.

Also, click here for UMJeremy’s church bio page. And click here for his Hacking Christianity Facebook Page.

Since I haven’t seen a doctrinal statement yet by UMJeremy (postmoderns are infamous for denying the need for doctrinal statements), I have been surfing a bit for objectionable material. There is plenty to object to, as a born again “fundamentalist right wing Christian”.

Looking through UMJeremy’s Twitter account, I found a number of offensive photos and comments:

1) Nov. 21, 2013 – He posted an image with the following quote. Although unnamed, this is Paul Anthony Preussler commenting on one of my blogs here. UMJeremy captioned the image with this comment: “Looks like I’m winning. This was posted in a “Christians Against Apostasy” group.” UMJeremy claims that he’s winning – but this must have gotten under his skin – why else would he post this on Twitter? What do you think?:

Paul Comment

Question – what does UMJeremy mean by “winning”? Note that he doesn’t deny “advocating acts of theological violence against the scriptures and church tradition”. Nor does he deny his lack of reference to Scripture.

2) Nov. 22, 2013 – UMJeremy quoted Fr. Richard Rohr – many articles have been written about Rohr’s heresies:

Rohr

3) Nov. 17, 2013 – He posted the following photo from the Explo 13 Sacred Space area, which refers to God as “(s)he”. The UMC – like many mainline denominations – is getting heavily into goddess worship – click here for many articles on this.

She
4) Date unknown – UMJeremy attempted to post a video about Bishop Talbert’s “homosexual marriage” breach of the UMC Discipline. Click here for a UMC article about the incident. Here is UMJeremy’s posted photo [with a broken link to the YouTube video], entitled “Good News President on Talbert’s Breach of the Discipline”:

Talbert Breach

There are many more offensive materials I’m sure – I plan to add more as I locate them, so readers can get more of a “handle” on where UMJeremy is coming from, and is headed…

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Below I have reposted a blog which describes the apostasy of most evangelical churches today. Click here for the original post.

Pastoral Predicament

Posted by on Jun 4th, 2011 in Christianity & the Bible | 6 comments

A recent survey of Protestant pastors indicates that nearly 40% of them perceive that they are not “on the same page” – either politically or theologically or both – with the leaders of their denomination, and/or the congregations in their churches. A recent AgapePress article presented the results of this survey. It was authored by Allie Martin and Jody Brown, and entitled “Survey Reveals Discord Between Pastors, Denominations”. Martin & Brown report that Ellison Research found “19 percent of pastors are more liberal theologically than their denomination, 23 percent are more conservative, and 59 percent say their views align with their denomination’s teachings.” It also pointed out that “”Sixty percent of all evangelical pastors said that they are on the same page as their denomination politically, compared to only 45 percent of pastors in mainline Protestant churches,” Sellers says. “As a matter of fact, over one-third of pastors in mainline Protestant churches said that their denomination is more politically liberal than they are.”

I found several dimensions of this report to be significant. One aspect that struck me as intriguing here was the fact that political and spiritual (or at least religious) aspects are tied together. The research performed by Ellison appears to start with an underlying assumption that liberalism and conservatism are both dimensions of one’s political and spiritual position. I think that’s absolutely correct, but in this increasingly “politically correct” world, I’m surprised that researchers would make any such assumption. This would imply that there is not a statistically significant number of people in the congregation who are both politically conservative and religiously liberal, and vice versa. It would be interesting to see that hypothesis tested, I think. If it’s true (and I think it is,) the “separation of church and state” crowd will be appalled.

Another very interesting dimension of the findings is that there is a substantive difference in the degree of alignment in mainline denominations versus more evangelical churches. Again, though, when one thinks through this, it makes perfect sense. The liberalism that has been growing in American Protestant churches is obvious: Abandon the theologically rich hymns of the faith and replace them with shallower lyrics projected using Powerpoint; condone female ministers, gay lifestyles, and the idea that the Bible really is the Word of God, and as such is likely to be offensive to some folks when it is proclaimed honestly. Casual is more than the dress code of many parishioners in many of these churches; it is their view of Christianity. It is increasingly entertainment-like, and decreasingly focused on serious, soul-searching worship. There are a number of excellent examinations of this phenomenon, and among them are articles by Dave Mosher who says: “You will be hard pressed to find a local evangelical church that is not getting sucked into Emerging/Emergent/Emergence teachings.”, Melinda Penner, who says: “the Council’s decision to recommend our departure [from the denomination] was not based solely upon this issue but rather an accumulation of liberal decisions by the national body over the course of nearly 20 years, which caused a widening distance in our relationship with them as a conservative congregation. Thus the gay clergy decision was the tipping point after adding up many factors and a long-term trend.”, and Dave Cloud, who says: “Respected evangelical leader Harold Lindsell gave this testimony in regard to the mainline denominations: “It is not unfair to allege that among denominations like Episcopal, United Methodist, United Presbyterian, United Church of Christ, the Lutheran Church in America, and the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. THERE IS NOT A SINGLE THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY THAT TAKES A STAND IN FAVOR OF BIBLICAL INFALLIBILITY. AND THERE IS NOT A SINGLE SEMINARY WHERE THERE ARE NOT FACULTY MEMBERS WHO DISAVOW ONE OR MORE OF THE MAJOR TEACHINGS OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH” (Harold Lindsell, Battle for the Bible, Zondervan, 1976, pp. 145-146.) Modernism has permeated the mainline denominations. Any call, therefore, to breach denominational barriers today, is a call to yoke together truth with error and is an open denial of the biblical doctrine of separation.”

The third dimension of interest to me is simply the large and increasing number of pastors who feel that they are not aligned in terms of their theology (and politics) with their own congregations. In my experience, at least in the case of strong pastoral leaders, the congregations tend to gravitate toward the perspectives presented from the pulpit. Congregations should be calling pastors who they believe to be teaching in accordance with their perceptions of biblical truth. If they are doing that, then why would there be such a large and growing disparity between their views and the pastor’s?

Finally, the dimension that I am having more trouble understanding: 23% of pastors surveyed report that their denominational leaders are more liberal than they are. It makes me wonder what is at the root of this. Are the denominational leaders, owing to their elevated standing in the denomination, “going Hollywood” in terms of relaxing their standards to be more widely accepted? I do understand the flip side, I think. The 19% who report that their denominational leaders are more conservative seems perfectly natural in light of the generally liberalizing trends in our churches today, as discussed earlier in this article. But the aspect of more liberal denominational leaders is troubling indeed.

I do understand the “Pastoral Predicament” here. Many pastors who remain faithful to the doctrinal teachings of fundamental Christianity as described by the Bible are feeling the squeeze these days, between a liberalizing denominational leadership and a liberalizing congregation. Other pastors have the challenge of denominational leaders growing further and further distanced from both themselves and their congregations. This path is slightly easier, because there is a clear way out – leave the denominational affiliation and find one closer in spiritual alignment. But even in these cases, the way forward is uncomfortable at best. It is a difficult and growing problem. I would be interested in hearing other perspectives on this.

What do you think?

6 Responses to “Pastoral Predicament”

  1. Bill, it’s always wonderful to meet a like minded brother in the Lord concerned about these issues. Thanks for linking to my blog – I hope many find it helpful. God bless you – Dave

    • Dave, it’s a great pleasure to hear from you as well. This blog is cathartic for me – I struggle to make peace with many of these challenges in my own life, and wanted to do a blog to see whether others do as well, and whether we could learn from one another. I have a very long way to go in my own spiritual journey, and I appreciate fellow Christians who are willing to lay their own opinions, experience, and insights out for me – and for others. I know it can be intimidating for some, and for others it just takes more time and energy than they are willing to invest….. sometimes, i think that says a lot, too.

  2. Bill, regarding disparities between pastors, their congregations, and their denominations, you made a lot of great observations. Excellent blog. One scenario that would make the picture a bit simpler: independent churches (particularly independent fundamentalist churches). In this scenario, there is no denominational leadership to report to. So the pastor and the congregation are the only two parties that need to be in sync, so to speak. And as you mentioned, you would think the congregation would go along with the pastor’s doctrinal stance. Regarding a biblically sound pastor: get a biblically sound, mature, godly pastor who preaches salvation through “the Blood and the Cross” of Jesus Christ, and you will draw in the same kind of congregation. Attenders who do not go along with sound doctrine will leave – you can count on it.

    • Excellent point, Dave. Thank you for your thoughtful response. I have attended independent churches before – though never really became involved in one. It was my impression that the one or two I attended were associated with other independent churches – not in the manner of a formal organization structure, but to enable inter-church fellowship and cooperation on things like mutually sponsored concerts and similar events. But I believe your point about being doctrinally accountable to a denominational structure is completely valid.

  3. Chris Huff says:

    I can relate to much of what you said. I think part of the reason pastors and their congregations do not always agree on doctrine is because of the way pastors are elected. In many denominations, the congregation has little to no say in it. A governing board within the denomination appoints pastors to serve particular churches. For better or worse, they’re stuck with each other. And congregants often don’t leave the church because they know they will likely get a new pastor in a few years anyway.

    But even when pastors aren’t appointed, the selection process is still often far from the ideal. It seems the New Testament describes pastors being called out from within the congregation itself. This allows for thoroughly knowing the individuals: their life, their doctrine, etc. But this doesn’t happen as much today (although I still hear about it from time to time). Today, a relatively unknown person is brought before the church and decided upon after hearing them preach just a couple times. After getting to know each other more, they find that they didn’t agree on nearly as much as they had originally thought.

    • I have witnessed the selection process a number of times, Chris, and your description certainly matches my experiences. Two exceptions I have seen both involved Youth Ministers who assumed the pastorate when the existing pastor left his position. In these cases, of course, the former Youth Pastor has a bit of a “leg up”, knowing the congregation, and the congregation has a substantial advantage having seen their new pastor in action over a long period of time in their midst. Thank-you for your post!

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(revised 02/27/14)

There are so many evangelical Christians falling away into apostasy in these End Times – sometimes I feel overwhelmed and discouraged. But then I remind myself there are many biblically sound Christian movements today that should be a source of great encouragement for all discerning, biblically sound Christians.

Following are a few of my favorite movements. I will be adding to this list as I come across more. Dear reader, I realize my list may be controversial. The list reflects my personal doctrinal stances – your list may be different.

The movements are listed alphabetically here, not in order of importance.

Abstinence movement
“Why Wait?” resources

Christian classics – Most Christian publishers are putting out fewer and fewer biblically sound Christian books. Yet at the same time, the Internet is providing us with more and more free, public domain biblically sound books viewable online, as well as inexpensive eBooks. No longer is our reading limited to “hard copy” publications.

– Google online ebooks advanced search page

Christian publishers – There are still a number of small, biblically sound Christian publishers. Click here for my blog listing many of these.

Church bookstores – It seems very few Christian bookstores are biblically sound. Most sell whatever sells well, regardless of how heretical the books, CDs, etc. Check out David Cloud’s article on a good alternative – church bookstores.

Confessing Movement – Mainly consisting of concerned Christians in mainline/liberal denominations. As the denominations grow more ungodly regarding homosexual “rights”, etc., these Christians are pushing for their local churches to become independent from their denominations. Click here and here for my blogs about this movement.

Conservative Holiness movement
Wikipedia article

Conservative Mennonites
Wikipedia article
Conservative Mennonite Fellowship

Creation Science (specifically, the Young Earth movement)
– Wikipedia article on Creation Science  (showing bias against it)
– Wikipedia article on Young Earth Creationism (showing bias against it)

Discernment Ministries, also called Online Discernment Ministries (ODMs).  For links to my favorite ODMs, scroll down to the bottom of the right hand side of my blog page, to the section entitled Blogroll.

Frugal living (downward mobility) – This is a biblical principle. Jesus commanded:

19) Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: 20) But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal…” (Matt. 6:19-20, KJV)

Since our economy took a downward turn in Fall 2008, many Christians have been forced into frugality, learning how to live on less. Perhaps this economic difficulty is God’s way of driving us to our knees, to rid us of materialism and draw us closer to Him.

Mary Hunt’s Debt-Proof Living
DaveRamsey.com

Homeschooling (Christian) and private Christian schools
– Wikipedia article on Homeschooling (secular)
HomeschoolChristian.com

Hymn websites – Paul encouraged the New Testament Christians to:

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.” (Col. 3:16,  KJV).

Pew hymnbooks have disappeared from many churches since the early 1970s (the advent of Contemporary Christian Music). Thank the Lord for hymn websites, listing hymn lyrics and hymn tunes.

Hymnal.net
HymnSite.com

Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches (I prefer IFB churches holding to the positions of David Cloud at Way of Life Literature)

King James Bible movement (including adherents of the Textus Receptus NT and Masoretic OT)
David Cloud’s position on the KJV-only movement
Dean Burgon Society

KJV Bible publishing ministries (Bearing Precious Seed)

Mission agencies – These agencies focus on evangelism (saving souls). They do not use a missional/Kingdom Now/social holiness approach, nor do they support the Insider Movement/ Contextualization.
list of KJV Baptist missions
Biblical Missiology (a consortium, not a missions agency)
i2 Ministries

“Persecuted Christian” groups
Persecution.org
Voice of the Martyrs

Post-Trib movement – I grew up being taught the Pre-Trib Rapture theory. I now prefer the Post-Trib view – although I love to fellowship with all premillenialists, whether Pre-Trib, Mid-Trib or Post-Trib.
Post-Trib.net

Pro-Life movement
Wikipedia article on the Pro-Life movement

“Repentance Salvation” movement (I am using the phrase “repentance salvation” for lack of a better term) – This movement fights Easy Believism aka Easy Prayerism. This movement is mostly Independent Fundamentalist Baptist. Proponents are  David Cloud (IFB) and Paul Washer (Southern Baptist), to name a few.

Repentance Salvation overlaps with a movement perjoratively called “Lordship Salvation”, which is more extreme. Note – David Cloud opposes Lordship Salvation. Opponents of  Repentance Salvation often confuse it with Lordship Salvation, attacking both as equally heretical.

– This “Repentance Blacklist” was posted by a website critical of Repentance Salvation; I actually recommend most (but not all) of the names on this “blacklist”
– Wikipedia article about Paul Washer
“Repentance and Lordship Salvation”, by David Cloud
“Repentance and Lordship Salvation Revisited”, by David Cloud

Separatist Fundamentalist associations (multi-denominational)
– Click here and here for my blogs about these.

Tract-publishing ministries (mostly KJV)
“Witnessing With Gospel Tracts”, by David Cloud

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There are exciting movements going on today, called “Confessing Movements.” These consist mainly of individuals in mainline denominations, working to bring biblical beliefs back to their wayward denominations.

Following is an “Arminian Today” blog about the Confessing Movement in the United Methodist Church (UMC). Personally, I grew up in the Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI) denomination, which shares a common Wesleyan Holiness heritage with the UMC. (Granted, we have to go back rather far to locate that common, biblically sound heritage.)

Back to the  “Arminian Today”  blog – I am copying the blog verbatim. Click here for the original source of this blog (update 03/10/12 – this link no longer works). I have emphasized certain points by bolding or [bracketing].

2.18.2011
The Confessing Movement in the United Methodist Church
[blogsite author – anonymous]

From time to time I get to pray with a few Methodist pastors. Despite being trained in liberal institutions, these brothers remain somewhat conservative. I say somewhat only in that we haven’t discussed every doctrinal issue and I know that their passion for holiness is not the same as my own from our conversations. But they are still conservative Methodist pastors within the United Methodist Church and for that I am thankful to God. They pray with a desire to see Jesus exalted in His Church and with a passion to see the fire of God that once burned bright in the Methodist church to fall again on the UMC.

Thankfully there is a movement within the UMC to call Methodists back to the fire and passion of John Wesley. Wesley, contrary to popular opinion, didn’t start the Methodist church. He never left the Church of England and his call was reformation and revival among Anglicans of Wesley’s day. But from Wesley and Whitefield came forth the Methodist church. From the time shortly after the death of John Wesley until the early 20th century, the Methodist church dominated. In the United States alone the Methodist church planted more churches and saw more souls come to faith in Christ than any other movements. The fires of revival that came from John Wesley did not die until the Methodist colleges and universities begin to embrace the spirit of the age and adopted to modernity. Various Methodist colleges and seminaries, one by one, begin to subscribe to the unorthodox views coming out of Europe in the late 19th century that denied inerrancy and the infallibility of the Bible, embraced evolution, and embraced a faulty understanding of Jesus Christ, His cross, His resurrection, and His gospel. This led to the demise of the Methodist church and since the early part of the 20th century, the Methodist church has been irrelevant in terms of making an eternal impact for God’s true kingdom.

But there is hope. God is raising up men and women in the Methodist church that are being faithful to Jesus and His kingdom. They are embracing the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, that Jesus Christ is fully God and He alone is the way of salvation, that God desires holiness and that He wants all the nations to hear His gospel (Mark 16:15). These Methodists are beginning to show signs of the old fashioned holiness fire that burned in the chests of John Wesley, George Whitefield, John Fletcher, Richard Watson, Francis Asbury, Richard Allen, E.M. Bounds, Peter Cartwright, and Samuel Chadwick. I would also place Leonard Ravenhill in with these men of God along with other “Methodists” such as William and Catherine Booth. The fire of God that sparked a passion for souls, for prayer, for worldwide revival is starting to brew again in the hearts of many Methodists and I praise God for that. They are tired of church as usual and they want to see the Lord glorified in His Church again.

I urge you to pray for the Confessing Methodist movement. I believe that this faithful remnant has keep the UMC from going the way of the PCUSA or the Lutherans. The Holy Spirit is using many from the confessing movement to turn hearts back to the Lord Jesus and once again the gospel of the new birth that comes through faith in Jesus Christ is being preached (John 3:3-7; 1 Peter 1:18-19). 2 Corinthians 5:17 is once again being taught by many confessing Methodists. Luke 24:47-49 is once again being lived out among confessing Methodists. The fire of holiness from passages such as Acts 15:9 is being prayed for and applied by confessing Methodists. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 is once again being taken seriously as is 2 Timothy 3:16-17. I praise God for this and so should you too my friends.

For more on the confessing movement, see their website here.

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(revised 01/25/14)

The Confessing Movement is very encouraging, a bright spot in the sea of End Times apostasy. It consists primarily of individuals attending mainline churches.

Following is an excerpt from the Wikipedia article on “the Confessing Movement”, found here (Wikipedia is probably not the most accurate source). I have emphasized points by bolding and added comments in [brackets].

Here is the Wikipedia excerpt:

“The Confessing Movement is an Evangelical movement [primarily] within … mainline Protestant denominations to return those churches to what the members of the movement see as theological orthodoxy.

It relates and cross pollinates with other conservative Christian movements such as Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Holiness groups, Anabaptists, and Fundamentalists. Its members have a stated commitment to remain in their home denominations, unless forced out, to stay and work for reform from within, in contrast to what they see as other modern reform movements that splintered Protestantism into thousands of denominations. They acknowledge that full reform of their churches may not be achieved. Of particular concern to those in the Confessing movement has been a perceived lack of concern for, or non-evangelical approaches to, evangelism, to the deity of Christ, to questions of sexuality and homosexuality in particular.”

I found several denominational lists of Confessing Movements:

1) In the Wikipedia article mentioned above, there are sections dealing with Confessing Movements in the following denominations:

4.1 Presbyterian
4.2 Methodist
4.3 Episcopalian/Anglican
4.4 Church of the Brethren
4.5 Lutheran
4.6 United Church of Christ

Read through each of the above sections, and you will find a number of links to related websites for each denomination.

2) The Association for Church Renewal website provides links to the following denominational Confession Movements:

American Baptist Church
Anglican Communion Episcopal Church
Church of the Brethren
Disciples of Christ Christian Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church In America (ELCA)
Presbyterian Church USA
United Church of Canada
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church

Source: http://www.associationforchurchrenewal.com/

3) Mennonites
Source: http://www.fcminformer.org/

4) Finally, the longest list, at Wikinoah.org. Note the following comment in this article: “each mainline denomination has within it a Confessing Movement or renewal movement which is more conservative in tone.”

Here is the list of mainline denominations (I am searching for the Confessing Movement websites for each of these denominations):

  • American Baptist Churches USA 1,442,824 members (2001)[4]
  • Armenian Apostolic Church / Catholicossate of Cilicia
  • Armenian Apostolic Church / Catholicossate of Etchmiadzin
  • Assyrian Church of the East 120,000 members (1989)[5]
  • Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 804,842 members (2001)[6]
  • Congregational Christian Churches, (not part of any national CCC body)
  • Dutch Reformed Church 9,395 members (2001)[7]
  • Eastern Orthodox Church: American Diocese
  • Episcopal Church in the United States of America
  • Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 5,099,877 members (2001)[8]
  • International Council of Community Churches 200,263 members (2000)[9]
  • Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
  • Metropolitan Community Church 44,000 members (1998)[10]
  • Moravians (religion) in America, Alaska Province
  • Moravians (religion) in America, Northern Province 24,650 members (2003)[11]
  • Moravians (religion) in America, Southern Province 21,513 members (1991)[12]
  • National Association of Congregational Christian Churches 65,569 members (2000)[13]
  • North American Baptist Conference
  • Presbyterian Church (USA) 3,455,952 members (2001)[14]
  • Reformed Church in America 285,453 members (2001)[15]
  • Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
  • United Church of Christ 1,359,105 members (2001)[16]
  • United Methodist Church 8,298,145 members (2001)[17]

Source: http://www.wikinoah.org/index.php?title=Mainline#_note-ardamain

Perhaps the Confessing Movement can provide us with a working model for how to deal with Spiritual Formation and the Emerging/ Emergent Church movements. We should examine the Confessing Movement groups more closely, to see how they have organized themselves and spoken out in protest against their denominations. (I am still trying to locate specific Confessing Movement criticisms of Spiritual Formation and the Emerging/Emergent Church movements; the criticisms located so far have used more general terms, such as “the deity of Christ”, “biblical inerrancy”, etc.)

Up to this point, I have recommended leaving any denomination that is getting swallowed up in Spiritual Formation and the Emerging/Emergent Church movements. One problem with this approach, however, is as follows. Suppose one leaves an Emerging Church (Emerging Churches still retain at least some biblical doctrines). As concerned Christians continue leaving an Emerging Church, it eventually becomes Emergent (aka Liberalism 2.0) – no biblical attenders are left.

On the other hand, if one remains in a Spiritual Formation/Emerging/Emergent church with a FAMILY, he risks exposing his family members to false teachings which will very likely lead them away from biblical Christian faith. My best advice for those with families, under these circumstances, would be to pray, pray, pray about whether you should stay or leave. Consider factors such as your spiritual strength, the spiritual strength of your spouse, and the spiritual strength of your children (as well as their ages).

There are individuals whose Christian faith grows when confronted; they are tried and tested and end up maturing when their pastors try to present false teachings. This was the case for me. During my “single years,” I attended several churches that were biblically sound at one point. As they changed and started falling into apostasy, I felt led to  study their doctrinal errors; I eventually moved on to more biblically sound churches. I can honestly say I am a more mature, knowledgeable, discerning Christian for having attended all of these churches. And, hopefully I can help others encountering similar false teachings in their churches.

FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
(I’m looking for more recent publications)

The Rebirth of Orthdoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity, by Thomas C. Oden (2002), pp. 140-153 (click on the TITLE to read online)

The Remnant Spirit: Conservative Reform in Mainline Protestantism,
by Douglas E. Cowan (2003)(click on the TITLE to read online)

In Googling for more info, I also found two less common terms for the Confessing Movement: “Renewal Movement” and “Remnant Movement.”

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